Pacific Northwest | February 15, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineFebruary 15, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
TASTE
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT

A Shelter for Some
Photo
COURTESY OF BOB MONROE
The Mount Baker Boathouse offered covered storage for 16 canoes, most of them owned by the park's affluent neighbors. The custodian-concessionaire lived upstairs, rent-free. A replacement boathouse was built in 1949 and became the headquarters for the Gold Cup hydroplane races until the Stan Sayres Pits were opened in 1957. The second boathouse was remodeled for a bathhouse in the 1960s.

 
 Photo
DON SELLERS
This tidy little boathouse at Mount Baker Park was built with its equally prim dock in 1909, the year the state granted Seattle much of the land along the west shore of Lake Washington for park use.

Across the cove was the city's old pump house at Colman Park (seen here with the tall smokestack on the far left). Its original use as the source of the city's water supply was abandoned along with the first troubling traces of lake pollution when the clean, cool contributions of the Cedar River reached Seattle by pipeline in 1901. Through much of its second life, the pump house was used as both a park-maintenance facility and a bathhouse.

The Municipal Art Commission failed to save the pump house and the landmark was destroyed in 1965 — 19 years after its neighbor, the Mount Baker Boathouse, was razed as "unsightly."

Through its 36 years, the boathouse gave a uniquely ambivalent service. Its generally affluent neighbors who lived in the Mount Baker Park subdivision were given free use of the shelter to store their canoes. Others paid. The Park Department's correspondence files for Mount Baker Park and its boathouse are rife with letters from locals complaining about the "loitering and rough-housing" of young swimmers from "non-adjacent areas" — like Rainier Valley.

The mildly dangerous adventure of swimming across the cove from Colman Park to boats kept at the Mount Baker moorage resulted in summer-long bans on boats from the north (left) side of the pier. The prohibition was done perhaps more for the safety of the familiar vessels than the strange swimmers, of whom there were many. In the summer of 1915, the Park Department counted 39,843 bathers along the beach between the pump house and the boathouse.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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